Sequential Images

I wasn’t aware of The Criterion Contraption blog until the author started commenting on here, and I wish I’d found it years ago. It’s exactly the thing I’ve been looking for.

The premise is that the aforementioned author, Matthew Dessem, is watching the movies of The Criterion Collection in order by spine number, and writing about each one. At the time I’m writing this, he’s finished 88 entries, so there’s only 367 to go! God speed! (Another lesson learned: I had had no idea how many Criterion movies there were.)

So that’s the premise, but the appeal is that the entries are so well-written. There’s no shortage of writing about movies on the internet, but it all tends to fall into one of two categories: shallow reviews of recent movies that say nothing more than “should I see it or not?” or tiresome, over-long, pseudo-academic wankery that says nothing more than “my cinema studies major was not a waste of time, dammit!” (A third category, the tiresome, over-long, shallow synopsis of dated movies no one cares about remains relatively rare but is gaining traction). Basically, I’ve been looking for something in between “thumbs up!” and exegesis.

The entries on Criterion Contraption are perfect examples of how to write about movies on the internet: accessible, comprehensible, intelligent, perceptive, with the right balance of subjectivity and objectivity, well-researched without being mired in obsessive over-interpretation of symbolism, and genuinely funny. Plus, he understands how and when to use a still frame from the movie, or an excerpt from the script, instead of a paragraph to make the point. And best of all: I’m 15 entries in (in reverse order) and I have yet to encounter the phrase mise en scène.

I’d recommend it for anybody who likes movies. Even for movies I’ve seen dozens of times and read about extensively, I’ve seen stuff on that blog I hadn’t noticed before.